26 August 2008 09:12 AM

Election Time

by Dr. Rick
A presidential election is the perfect time for the country to think and talk about the issues that mean the most to us. We want to hear our candidates discuss these issues. We want to know their thoughts. Polls show we're most concerned about the faltering economy. Then comes the price of oil. Next is the war in Iraq. But poll after poll for many years now, tell us that education is also way up there on our minds. So why have we heard so little about education?

Well, there are the topics I’ve just mentioned. The economy, clearly, has many people spooked. Our houses are worth less, our wages are languishing, food prices are skyrocketing, and record-breaking gas prices are affecting every segment of our lives.

Then, there’s the reality that a president really has very little to say about day-to-day education in our country. Education is a local concern, nowhere mentioned in our Constitution, despite our Founders’ high esteem for learning. It’s local, not national.

Talking about schools, teaching, and learning can wait. But can it?

Even if there are other more pressing, immediate concerns on our minds, even if education is a more appropriate – or at least practical – topic for state or local elections, that doesn’t mean Senators McCain or Obama don’t have a responsibility to discuss education.

There’s plenty they could discuss. Our colleges and universities may be world-renowned for their excellence - people from all over the globe are itching to come here to study. But the K-12 schools for our own children? Not so much. We’re mediocre at best, according to many studies.

There are growing numbers of people, especially in our urban cores, who’ve abandoned public schools for private ones that, it could be argued, do not reflect the population and contribute to a de facto segregation between the haves and the have-nots.

Parental involvement, by all research and common sense, needs strengthening in many schools.

School safety. Gangs in schools. Teachers’ preparation, status, and competence. Assessment. Arts. Health and physical education. Sciences. Modern languages. The list is seemingly endless.

The president may play a relatively small role in our country’s schools, but the presidency comes with a bully pulpit that enables him to focus our attention on important, immediate, even noble endeavors. Think of our best presidents and how they marshaled the power of their office to unite us in grand and inspiring ways, even in times more precarious than ours.

Next up, I’ll talk about the ideal influence of a presidential candidate’s role in education…


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